Salsa di noci, or walnut sauce, originates from the Italian region, Liguria. It is made using walnuts and olive oil from the region, along with garlic, butter and cream, and finished with the specialty hard cheese Parmigiano-Reggiano or Grana Padano.
Traditionally, the sauce is made using a pestle and mortar and served with pansotti which are pasta stuffed with ricotta and spinach. It is also often served with fettuccine. Often used in Roman and Tuscan cooking, fettuccini at 6.5 mm (1⁄4 inch) is wider and thicker than tagliatelle
We use value spaghetti here as it is cheapest, but do feel free to use whatever pasta you have
This particular recipe is from The Silver Spoon, the Italian’s Mrs Beeton. It has 2000 recipes, mainly 1 paragraph, not many pictures, but lots and lots of little gems. Like this one.
What you need to make salsa di noci
Priced at Aldi 30th March 2023
250g walnuts, £2.15 (in 180g packets)
4 tblsp oil, £1.99p/litre, 12p
clove of garlic, crushed 4 cloves/95p, 3p
3 tblsp double cream, 300ml/£1.19p, 18p
zest & juice of a small lemon, 55p/4, 14p
320g value spaghetti, 28p/500g, 18p
Serves 4. Total cost £2.80, 70p a serving
Need to make it cheaper?
- I have changed the original olive oil to vegetable oil. If you have olive oil, it would be good here.
- reduce the amount of nuts to a 180g packet, omitting the rest – saves 60p
- leave out the cream – saves 18p
- use half the oil – saves 6p
- do all of these savings and you will reduce the cost, at current prices, to £1.93, 49p a serving
How to make salsa di noci
The recipe says to soak the nuts in boiling water for 3 minutes, then drain and rub off the skins. I didn’t do this as they didn’t look like they needed it.
Chop the nuts as fine as you can get them and add the cream, oil, lemon zest and juice, and salt and pepper. I chopped the nuts in the food processor, then mixed in everything else with a spoon, we don’t want to whip the cream. The lemon isn’t in the original recipe, but when I first tasted it, it lacked something. I had used my best virgin olive oil and that was the main flavour, not at all what I was after. That is when I thought of adding the lemon zest and juice which cut through the olive oil beautifully.
Cook the spaghetti and when done, drain and mix in the Salsa di Noci. Serve immediately, with a green salad.
We had ours with a big pile of radish from the greenhouse and cucumber, with home grown cress, plus a salad of grated carrots with a tblsp raisins and the remaining half of lemon squeezed over. Normally with this carrot salad, I would add a splash of olive oil, but there was more than enough oil in the pasta. The lemon juice in the salad worked beautifully with the rich pasta sauce.
This was lovely. Mild and flavoursome, not bitter at all from the walnut skins. Surprisingly, the walnuts were quite a subtle taste, not as strong as I thought it would be. It would be delicious too with some rice, or a jacket potato. I could taste the olive oil, although the addition of the lemon juice, it wasn’t dominant, but it would work just as well with ordinary rapeseed oil, which is what I have costed it at here. Olive oil at Aldi is 3 times the price, so if you want to use that, add another 12p to the total cost of the recipe, it will still be very cheap.
I am not totally convinced the cream is necessary. I was expecting a very creamy tasting sauce, but barely noticed it was there. Next time I would try it without the cream, and more lemon zest and juice. This would also make it vegan if that is of interest.
The next day, I had a very simple lunch. I still had some of the walnut sauce left, so I lightly cooked a whole pile of vegetables and tipped them on a plate. Then I loosened the sauce with a bit more lemon juice and a blob of yogurt and spooned it over the top of the veg, and sprinkled over a little parmesan.
It was delicious! Filling from the vegetables, calories from the sauce so I stayed that way, and couldn’t be healthier. So if you are a couple, you could make the pasta on 1 evening, then use the other half for this the next time.
What changes can I make?
The Silver Spoon recipe called for 250g walnuts, but the cheapest walnuts per 100g I could find using mySupermarket are from Aldi, and they come in a 200g bag. I’m sure the lack of 50g of walnuts won’t make that much difference to the recipe, so I plumped for that amount.
- Walnuts have a distinctive taste and make a lovely pasta sauce, and there are lots of other nuts that would be worth trying for this.
- Redskin peanuts would be the first option to try, as they are the cheapest nut.
- Or even salted peanuts, possibly rinsed a bit first to remove some of the salt.
- Then I would try English hazelnuts, another distinctive flavour, and one you might be able to forage for in the autumn, making for a very cheap dinner.
- Not sure that I would like it with Brazils, but do try it if you think you would like it.
- Pine nuts would be too mild, their delicate flavour buried beneath the cream and oil, and expensive too.
- Chestnuts? Yes, could well work, maybe with a few dried cranberries mixed in.
- Almonds, ooh yes, bet that would be good.
- The almonds and redskin peanuts would need to be skinned first, before pulverising. Or you could buy a bag of already ground almonds, or those general chopped nuts in a bag which are almost all peanuts.
- Change the vegetable oil used in the recipe to olive oil
- Use the more traditional fettuccini or tagliatelle instead of spaghetti